Dancers in their delicates seem to have characterised the Royal Ballet’s Seven Deadly Sins, but white-pantalooned Pierrot Lunaire still proves the most affecting part of this lively loss-of-innocence triple-bill at the Royal Opera House.
Writer Bertolt Brecht and composer Kurt Weill’s 1933 morality tale The Seven Deadly Sins opens the evening with two Annas, dancer Zenaida Yanowsky and folk songstress Martha Wainwright, embarking on a journey to “the great big cities where you go to make the money”. Leaving behind the safety of the bright earnest Louisianan moon, the Annas travel from town to town finding themselves the subject of desire, violence, pornographic films and eventually hollow Hollywood glamour.
Wainwright narrates the action through sung Brechtian verse as Yanowsky spends minutes at a time carried from bed to bed, between one man and the next, at the mercy of each deadly sin. Yet, in dark garters and bra, Yanowsky remains the controlling force within the sordid whirlwind of hysterical shoulder lifts and aggressive embraces.
Will Tuckett’s choreography is hardened and passionate with a restrained bed etiquette that includes just enough groping and grinding to suggest a world concerned with sleaze.
The destruction of Pierrot and his light lunar life at the hands of Brighella continues to be the perfect meeting of contemporary and classical ballet matched with dynamic vocals. The late Glen Tetley’s Pierrot Lunaire, set to Arnold Schoenberg's sung score, introduces us to commedia dell’arte clown Pierrot swinging from rail to rail alone atop a scaffolding tower - a dreamer reaching for the moon.
Guest principal Alexander Zaitsev (of Stuttgart Ballet) is exceptional as the fragile Pierrot whose broad red smile and contented solitude is ended by the arrival of Mara Galeazzi’s mischievous masquerading lush Columbine and veiled corruptor Brighella – a splendidly provocative Edward Watson. From his seductively menacing entrance to panto-phallic sport with his victim, Watson’s Brighella strips Pierrot first of his innocence then his clothing, leaving Zaitsev shattered with sweating white make-up descending his bare chest as we mourn his bruised soul and bleeding knees.
Zaitsev’s joyfully playful allegro is transformed by the mocking and manipulating conspirators into grounded agonizing contortions, every gesture now an excruciating humiliation and psychological torment. An ambiguous ending leaves us wondering whether our gentle hero has at last embraced blemished reality or is now – unable to view the heavens without support – doomed.
La Fin du Jour is a delightful parade of peach, watermelon, hot-pink and lavender couture in the between-war 1930s. Designer Ian Spurling’s pastel beige interior (including face-shaped flats that, god-like, overlook proceedings) provides the perfect insular stage for the buoyant solos and pas de deux of Natasha Oughtred, Mara Galeazzi, Johannes Stepanek and Valeri Hristov.
Part one sees the two girls don bathing suits and aviator goggles as they swim and fly through the scene’s undisturbed tranquillity with the assistance of some half-a-dozen colourfully dressed males. Their suspended gestures seem distant, as if viewed through opaque glass, yet wholly appropriate in their oblivious conviction. Stepanek and Hristov take centre-stage during part two, their triumphant turns in smart brightly-coloured tailed suits conveying a careless enthusiasm and festive decadence at one with choreographer Kenneth MacMillan's affair with the glamorous period.
- Malcolm Rock